I’m a huge fan of bicycles and i do miss living in Amsterdam where that is culturally supported form of transportation. The hills in SF, the distance of my commute and the lack of infrastructure support demotivate me from even thinking about biking as transport in SF. That said, i love my public transit.
Last night, around 7.45, i started my car for the first time in over a month because the quantity of grocery shopping necessary would require a car (even though its only 6 blocks away). On the way out, i hit Critical Mass.
Now, i have nothing but appreciation for folks taking to the streets to demand infrastructure support and i love the idea of Critical Mass. Every time i’ve seen them before, they slow down traffic as they go about their route, but this situation was different. I was halfway through the intersection at Church and Market when two guys biked in front of me and stoppped, forcing me to take to my breaks. They started yelling at me and then one asked me if i was smoking a joint. I rolled my eyes and him and said of course not; Jo gave a cigarette to another guy. They had also stopped the cab next to me in the middle of the street, screamed circle and began circling and screaming at both of us.
Needless to say, this aggravated the passenger of the cab and the cab driver and i had the same uncomfortable feeling about being illegally in the middle of a major intersection with no ability to get off to a side. The bicyclists started yelling at the passenger saying that they did this every month and he should find another route and he should just be patient and make his life easier and he started yelling back, telling them that they have their rights but if they want him to take an alternate route, let him get out of the intersection. They were screaming past each other.
About 5+ minutes later, on the other side of the street, another car was stuck in the middle of the intersection. They started screaming at him and he decided he was going to push through and get the fuck out of the intersection. A group picked up their bicycles and started pounding them on the car, hitting the car, kicking the car and from it looks like, hitting the driver through his window. I called 911, reported an assault and told them to get a police officer there immediately; the guy who was right out of my window screamed disperse.
The language and tone used by the bicyclists at Critical Mass had a level of aggression to it that was just terrifying. It’s like what you see when police officers breathe power and spit it out at you. It is everything scary about crowd behavior.
On the Critical Mass website under “Testosterone Brigade,” it says For some bicyclists, Critical Mass is an opportunity to berate motorists, now that WE own the road for once. Our society’s over-reliance on motorized traffic is a massive and overwhelming social problem, and it won’t be changed through the use of bitchy, ineffective tactics by a small minority of pissed-off bicyclists. But a movement for change based on a reclaiming of public space and the building of human community, open to people from across the social and political spectrum, could contribute to a deeper and more fundamental change in the way our society operates.
After my experience yesterday, i would never support Critical Mass. I saw a level of aggression and potential danger that is precisely antithetical to any public space takeover that i can value. There was no need for aggression. I thought Critical Mass was supposed to be a process of taking to the streets and riding at bike speed down busy streets, not collectively taking over intersections, circling cars and screaming at them. I don’t see how people think they will gather support through aggression and goddess knows they just alienated me permanently. And i’m a bike lover, public transit supporter.
::sigh:: Why is it that the protesters for the movements i believe in always alienate me?